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Are Neck Pain and Dizziness Related?

17 May

According to the Vestibular Disorders Association, there is a classification of dizziness called “cervicogenic dizziness”, or dizziness resulting from neck pain. Published reports have linked the influence of head position on equilibrium as far back as the mid-1800s, but it wasn’t until 1955 when researchers coined the term “cervical vertigo” to describe a clinical condition relating neck pain and/or injury to dizziness and disequilibrium. These days, cervicogenic dizziness (CD) is considered the more accurate diagnosis for this syndrome.

There are a number of neck-related diagnoses that can cause dizziness or disorientation including cervical spondylosis (spurs), cervical trauma (like whiplash), and cervical arthritis (osteoarthritis being the most common).

Unfortunately, there is no “gold-standard” test to confirm or rule out that the neck is the cause of one’s dizziness. A physical examination in a chiropractic clinic will seek to eliminate other causes of dizziness such as inner ear dysfunction (labyrinthitis or vestibular dysfunction) and/or other nervous system problems. Your doctor of chiropractic will also examine the eyes by carefully looking for oscillating eye motion (called nystagmus) in six different positions of end-range gaze. A diagnosis of CD is then made once all other causes of dizziness have been ruled out.

Symptoms of CD usually occur after the onset of neck pain. They’re often described as a sensation of movement that worsens with head movement or after prolonged time in one position. Such dizziness can last minutes to hours. A general sensation of imbalance occurs with head movement and/or with movement in the environment (like looking out of window of a fast-moving train, plane, or vehicle). Headache may accompany the dizziness and neck pain. Generally, as neck pain reduces so does the dizziness.

Because CD can result from trauma such as whiplash or head injury, treatment aimed at resolving the patient’s neck pain will usually resolve their symptoms of dizziness as well.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.
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Slouching – Does It Really Matter?

23 Apr

Last month, we discussed how slouching can contribute to neck pain and headaches, but we didn’t go into any detail about the other negative health ramifications of bad posture.

DIGESTION: Prolonged sitting is bad enough all by itself, but adding a slouched, slumped posture can distort or compromise the space that houses internal organs and negatively affect MANY vital functions, including digestion. This can lead to complaints including (but not limited to) discomfort, constipation, and heart burn.

BREATHING: Slouching can also reduce the space occupied by the lungs, hindering the ability to take in a deep breath and/or force air out of the lungs. This is the reason why good conductors have their musicians sit up straight with both feet on the floor (it’s not just to “look good”)!

MOOD: Did you know that sitting for seven or more hours per day increases the risk of depression by 47% compared with sitting for four hours a day or less? Our energy levels also decrease with prolonged poor posture, further complicating this negative side effect.

WORK PERFORMANCE: Researchers have observed that sitting up straight increases alertness, reduces fatigue, and improves productivity. Moreover, co-workers may conclude that someone slumped over their desk is unmotivated, disinterested, or at the least, tired. Sit/stand workstations are gaining popularity, especially with the availability of low-cost options to transform a traditional desk into a standing desk. Studies show improved work performance when we have the option to change positions as needed during the day. Exercises you can perform at your desk, such as chin retractions, help strengthen the deep neck flexor muscles, which can help reduce poor neck posture. Stretching the chest muscles and keeping the “core” fit with pelvic stabilization exercises are also GREAT methods to improve our sitting posture!

VARICOSE VEINS: Prolonged sitting raises the risk for the formation of spider veins, especially in women, which can lead to varicose veins. Compression from sitting alters the flow of blood into the legs, and a proper fitting chair and sitting “correctly” can reduce the risk of developing circulatory dysfunction leading to varicosities or worse, blood clots.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Does Slouching Cause Neck and Shoulder Pain?

22 Mar

In a 2015 study, Swedish researchers compared the effect of a slouched vs. normal body posture with regards to performing lifting tasks.

In particular, investigators wanted a better understanding of how a slouched posture affects neck and shoulder function and muscle activity in three large muscle groups—the upper trapezius (UT), lower trapezius (LT), and serratus anterior (SA)—during arm elevation to see if it affects range of motion, muscle activation patterns, maximal muscle activity, and total muscle work.

Study participants—non-injured, young adult males—perform maximum arm elevations in upright and slouched postures that researchers observed using a combined 3D movement and EMG (electromyography) assessment system. This measured the arm range of motion, velocity, and spine curvature simultaneously with EMG activity in the UT, LT, and SA muscles.

The research team found that participants in the slouched position experienced significantly less arm elevation and decreased movement velocity both upwards and downwards, in addition to increased peak muscle activity (that is, the muscles had to work harder) in all three muscles tested.

It appears that increased thoracic kyphosis (slouching) leads to a marked increase in physical requirements when performing simple arm movements. Over time, such changes in function could place added stress on the muscles, tissues, and joints of the neck and shoulder, leading to pain and injury. These findings add to a growing body of research regarding the detrimental long-term effects of poor posture as well as an understanding of how exactly faulty postures increase the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.

In their conclusion, the authors of the study write, “[Patients] suffering from neck-shoulder pain and disability should be investigated and treated for defective thoracic curvature issues.”

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Sick & Tired of Neck Pain?

15 Feb

For most of us, neck pain has reared its ugly head more than once. In fact, there are estimates that anywhere from one-in-ten to one-in-five people will experience an episode of neck pain in a given year. Though some studies report that between 33% and 65% of these people will recover within twelve months, many individuals will experience either a relapse of their neck pain or their neck pain will become a chronic health issue.

So what can a doctor of chiropractic do about it? The answer is simple: spinal manipulation (SM) and exercise. Spinal manipulation is the most common form of treatment delivered in a chiropractic setting, and many studies note that neck pain is the second most common reason patients seek chiropractic care (back pain is number one). Regarding exercise, patients may be advised to engage in stretching exercise, strengthening exercises, or both.

For example, after an hour of seated computer work, one might experience muscle fatigue from prolonged static postures, especially for those outside of a neutral position. For this scenario, here’s a great STRETCH option to do every 30-60 minutes (yes, SET A TIMER): 1) Tuck the chin (and keep it tucked); 2) reach with the right hand over the top of the head and gently pull the right ear toward the shoulder while the left hand reaches down to the floor (as if to pick up a dollar bill); 3) next, nod the head (as if gesturing “yes”) multiple times; 4) follow this by shaking the head left to right (as if gesturing “no”); 5) repeat steps one through four with the head/neck flexed forward and backwards, “searching” for the tightest spots and “work” them until they loosen up. Repeat on the opposite side.

Here is an exercise to STREGTHEN the neck muscles. 1) Tuck in the chin while looking straight ahead; 2) place the back of your second and third fingers under your chin and nod (up/down) against mild resistance; 3) repeat five to ten times SLOWLY; 4)  repeat steps one through three with head/neck flexed forward and then again backwards (looking towards the ceiling). Repeat multiple times each day.

The KEY is to set the timer to remind you to do these! If you have significant forward head carriage and rounded shoulders, your doctor of chiropractic can show you addition important exercises, but this will be a great start for you to gain control over that chronic, recurring neck pain that you’ve been putting up with for far too long!

What Is Torticollis?

18 Dec

Torticollis, also called wry neck or loxia, represents a category of neck conditions which exhibit a twisting position of the head and neck outside of a normal neutral position. There are many potential causes for torticollis from sleeping in a faulty position to an injury to the neck, like whiplash. However, it’s commonly labeled as “idiopathic,” which basically means, “We don’t know what caused it.”

Torticollis often occurs out of the blue with no obvious cause or history such as, “When I woke up, I couldn’t turn or move my head!” It can occur at any age and may disappear on its own in a few days to weeks, but in rare cases, it can persist for months or years.

Because it can be quite alarming, most people quickly seek healthcare services, which can include visiting a doctor of chiropractic. Once the more serious causes of torticollis are ruled out (such as a severe type of infection like a retropharyngeal abscess or bacterial meningitis, fracture, neoplasm, cervical dystonia, etc.), conservative care can proceed.

If a patient has a family history of torticollis, they may have a more serious form of torticollis called cervical dystonia. This usually begins between 31-50 years of age and if left untreated, it can become permanent.

Chiropractic care often includes stretching in which manual cervical traction, spinal mobilization, and myofascial release techniques help to restore the lost range of motion and faulty posture. Once enough motion has been restored, your doctor of chiropractic may utilize spinal manipulation, which often hastens the recovery rate of torticollis. Your chiropractor may also use physical therapy modalities and or provide instruction on home-based exercises and other self-management strategies.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Neck Pain Management Strategies

16 Nov

Because the human head weighs between 12-15 pounds (5.44-6.80 kg), the neck and upper back muscles must constantly work to maintain an upright posture. Due to our use of computer and electronic devices, many people have forward head posture (FHP), meaning their head rests forwards on the neck more than it should. In fact, studies show that every inch of FHP places an additional 10 pound (4.53 kg) burden on the muscles in the upper back and neck to keep the head upright. It’s no wonder why a common complaint is, “My head feels so heavy and my neck feels compressed—I constantly have to rest my head on the back of the couch when I sit.” So, what can we do about this?

POSTURE: Reducing FHP is essential. To do this, tuck in your chin (creating a “double chin”) and speak as you do this. You will notice a change in your voice quality—HOLD for ten seconds and then release JUST ENOUGH for the voice to clear and try to KEEP this position throughout the day. It takes about three months to retrain old bad posture habits so be patient!

SLEEP: If your neck is narrower than your head (the case for most of us), your pillow needs to be thicker on the edge to support your cervical spine.

ACTIVITY: You may have to assess which activities (such as sports) are most important to you and either modify how you do it and/or change when and how long you engage in such actions. If your goal is to improve in an activity, gradually increase the frequency, intensity, and duration over time. If you hurt and can’t recover within a “reasonable” time frame (such as 24-48 hours), then you overdid it.

Chiropractic offers MANY therapeutic tools to help those with neck pain, which include spinal and extremity manipulation, soft tissue therapy, physical therapy modalities (like ultrasound), nutritional counseling, and exercise training. Your doctor of chiropractic can give you advice on sleeping posture and prescription pillows, home cervical traction options, and more. The goal is not only to manage your neck pain, but more importantly,  to teach you self-management strategies so YOU can control of this often disabling condition and reduce the need for prolonged care.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.